Message Boards Message Boards

Samatha-Vipassana: Tranquillity and Insight, Hand-in-Hand

Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?

Toggle
My question is a bit broader and more personal than the subject perhaps suggests, so before I get to the questions I feel I must give you a bit of a chronology:

At the early age of 16 I had an A&P event, pretty much out of the blue. The similarities with the description in Daniel's book are striking. Quickly after I discovered Buddhism. I found the text "Buddha, the word" on sacred-texts.com. I started practicing meditation and wandered the spiritual landscape. I had to shed a lot of bullshit and distraction along the way. I regret never actually finding a good Buddhist teacher. I found plenty of different kinds of teachers who I am grateful to, but nobody could really tell me where I stand, explain me the significance of my experiences, help me with my meditation technique, etc. 

At the age of 23 I sold all my stuff and left to India. The purpose was to meditate until I got enlightened. I had a lof o zest that time and did a lot of meditating, mostly by myself in a village in Kashmir. I recognize all of the Samatha jhanas Daniel describes from that period. There were a lot of extremely blissfull experiences. However, at age 25 I recognized that I was addicted to those blisfful states. At the same time I got really disheartened by the actual lasting progress I felt I had made. Even though I reached very high states I felt I had made zero progress. I went home and my meditation practice started to weaken over the years until around age 30 it completely stopped. I felt I had to let it go, because my fascination with those states and the now seemingly unreachable goal of enlightenment became frustrating. It was just not going anywhere. 

I knew about Vipassana meditation. I even did a couple of Goenka Vipassana retreats. I followed the instructions of Goenka. I did two hours a day around the age of 27/28 after my third Goenka Vipassana retreat. It did not bring me anything lasting. I wonder however if I actually practiced Vipassna...

My ability to concentrate is unusually strong. Perhaps because of my efforts in India? I sometimes suffer of over-concentration problems; not being able to let go. It comes in handy for my work in software development though, coding all through the night until I have something that is perfect. Good for my reputation, but it not good for my happiness. 

During the body scan Vipassana meditation I remember not really being interested in being with the sensations. That way of doing a body scan feels like making a concentrated fist and sticking it in some body part from the inside out. As soon as I feel something I move on to the next body part to feel something.

I did a Zen retreat this year (now 36) and it reinvigorated my efforts. I am especially grateful to have finally met someone (albeit temporary) after the Zen retreat who I could actually talk with on a level and he told me about Daniel's book.  

I recognize now that I wasn't really listening to sensations, but concentrating on the effort of listening. Does anybody recognize this? I still find it hard to actually listen, but a shift has happened and the Vipassana meditation I now practice has a different quality; more open. I am really grateful to find the path again, but am still a bit unsure about what has happened to me, were I stand and what good next steps will be. What is a good meditation practice for me right now? 

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/26/17 6:05 PM as a reply to Sat Chit.
If you can procede with undisturbed concentration meditation then you should not change your approach is my understanding of the Buddha's teaching. Those that cannot do that can do Vipassana or Insight, which is most. I don't know what type you are, but it would be unfortunate to choose the wrong path. Concentration meditators get the path of pleasure, so ive been told. The misunderstanding about the Samatha path is well established. I think most concentration meditators would not be recognized in the Vipassana dominated system we are in. Wish i could help but its not my field. If i remember anything that may help, i will post it. Good luck.
I found this. Concentration meditators are able focus solely on the air column. They will benefit from anapanasati bhavana. This is a book my teacher wrote. It goes onto to say that the teacher must work closely with the meditator and establish the meditators inclanation then give the appropriate instructions. Not much help really. When you did Goenke could you focus solely on the air column, during those first 3 days. Insight meditators can't do that, they experience multiple aspects the breath touching the body, the rubbing sensation, tension, warm,cool. See what you can do, or more to point, what comes naturally.

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/27/17 5:14 AM as a reply to Sat Chit.
Glad the book was helpful.

As to next steps: what are you looking for specifically? What resources do you have for retreats (time, logistics, etc.)? Where are you located? How much time can you give to practice? What is calling to you at the moment? 

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/27/17 10:59 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hey Daniel! Great to have you reply personally to my question. I could not have wished for more. Thank you!

> what are you looking for specifically? 

Specifically I would like to be more grounded/present in my body. I enjoy just being present wherever I am. I've realized that being present is a reward in and off itself. It seems like when I am "just present" nothing can take it away. And yet, given a bit of time, some type of habitual pressure builds and I will be again dreaming about something else. I'd like to be less distracted by my mind, maybe without distraction at all. 

Generally I am looking to make some real/lasting progress on the spiritual path. I enjoy developing skills and being able to apply them skillfully. For example I enjoy math and the concepts that build on each other to ever increasing heights. Same goes for software development. It gives me a sense of power. The power to build, do cool things and make other people happy by helping them somehow.  

> What resources do you have for retreats (time, logistics, etc.)?

A company was built around me and now I am in it for the ride. Money is not a big problem, but time is. A couple more years before I expect to get some real freedom (months or more to spend). I have 5 weeks of free time each year. Some I wish to spend with my girlfriend and some just on having to do nothing for a while. I did a Zen sesshin this year together with my girlfriend for a week at Bodhizendo in India and that was a real success. 
 
> Where are you located?

Netherlands. 

> How much time can you give to practice?

Comfortably: 2 weeks a year on retreat. Each day an hour. I don't have any children and not planning on them as well. I could do more, but I always have to be careful of not burning out. My job is extremely demanding. Never a dull moment.

> What is calling to you at the moment? 

I feel a very strong calling to do a 3 month retreat. I feel pretty strongly attracted to Zen and Theravadan Buddhism. Vipassana is calling, because I have seen enough of the Samatha path. I was looking at
http://www.saddhamma.org/html/retreat.shtml. I would love to do a 60 day like that, even though it feels a bit scary to just jump in without having actually seen the center or knowing much about it. Of course that is due to your book, but I have had this wish for (another) long retreat for a while. I am guessing it will be 2020 before my company can do without me for that long a period. It would be good to work towards it though.

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/27/17 1:48 PM as a reply to Sat Chit.
Sat Chit:
I am really grateful to find the path again, but am still a bit unsure about what has happened to me, were I stand and what good next steps will be. What is a good meditation practice for me right now? 
Reread the following-

MCTB Progress of insight
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB+The+Progress+of+Insight

Jhanas and Nanas
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/506fcc5c84aefb9a79a610b3/1349504092518/Pathways.jpg
https://vimeo.com/69475208

Framework of awakening
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5800908

Mahasi Noting
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/Mahasi+Noting+

I find the Goenka style "Vipasana" somewhat limiting as it ignores seeing, hearing, thinking in favor of only focusing on feeling.
There is no sensation that is "unworthy" of investigation.

Digging into the three characteristics as well as the opposite - (the three delusions -sensations that seem to be permanent, you and satisfactory) are really important.
The actual training of the mind to look closely at what is going on moment to moment is what gets you to get to the point where it will continue to do so when you hit high equanimity, where permanent changes occur.
If you wish to chat sometime, I'd be happy to do so. just PM me.
Good Luck,
~D

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/28/17 10:56 AM as a reply to Bigbird.
Big Bird, thanks for your suggestions. I am unsure what to do with them though.

> If you can procede with undisturbed concentration meditation then you should not change your approach is my understanding of the Buddha's teaching.

It seems I've always done concentration meditation. Although that got me to very interesting places. I am quite discontented with the fact that there is still a feeling of a separate self even though I very well know there is no such thing. And now in Daniel's book I read that concentration meditation will not get you all the way. Therefore I am considering changing the approach. 

> Those that cannot do that can do Vipassana or Insight, which is most. I don't know what type you are, but it would be unfortunate to choose the wrong path. Concentration meditators get the path of pleasure, so ive been told.

I am the type that has a hard type doing Vipassana, because I am used to Samatha meditation so much. Even when I do Vipassana I notice myself concentrating, which then becomes the point of attention. Hence my question.

> See what you can do, or more to point, what comes naturally.

What comes naturally is concentration meditation. 


RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/28/17 12:43 PM as a reply to Sat Chit.
Sat Chit:
> See what you can do, or more to point, what comes naturally.

What comes naturally is concentration meditation. 



Hi,
I'm no concentration expert. Not a Vipassana expert either. So feel free to ignore my rambling.

When you meditate do you find yourself thinking "drat i did it again" after some time of samatha absorption? Or can you catch yourself doing it so to speak. If the latter that is the time to note all the sensations that make up your concentration meditation. See and contemplate them as impermanent, as giving rise to dhukka(you don't want it, because you want insight right?) so there's probably some aversion etc etc. Deeply see that you cannot control it and thus is not self..

In my understanding that should do the trick.
If however you cannot "escape" the absorption. Try to find out what sensations there are where you glide into concentration meditation. In time you should be able to identify your tells. Which should give you a clue as to stay allert enough to do vipassana..

Also instead of sitting, or reclining or something. Do more walking meditation. That at least should keep you from becomming absorbed.

Hope that makes sense. As for retreat. There's a retreat centre in germany I would recomend. But only because it's the only one I went to myself. There's a few reviews on this site. It's basic course is a full 15 day non stop vipassana experience..

With Love
Eelco

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/29/17 9:22 AM as a reply to Eelco ten Have.
Eelco, these are pretty good tips. Thank you. I indeed sometimes feel I can not escape the absorption, which is an interesting point of investigation.

Can you give me a link to the Vipassana in Germany? A 15 day retreat might be a nice step up for me. I've done a lot of 10 and 7 day retreats that left me wanting to spend more time.

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
12/30/17 2:57 AM as a reply to Sat Chit.
Sat Chit:

Can you give me a link to the Vipassana in Germany? A 15 day retreat might be a nice step up for me. 
Sure, Here it is..
http://www.vipassana-dhammacari.com/main_eng.html


If you do a search for dhammacari on dharmaoverground, you should find a few reviews.

With Love
Eelco

RE: Doing Samatha practice while thinking you are practicing Vipassana?
Answer
1/2/18 5:27 AM as a reply to Eelco ten Have.
great story.  despite having some serious results with Goenka retreats i never felt that the scanning method harmonized with me.

moving to mahasi style noting was a serious breakthrough with fast measurable results in my case.

imo - vipassana and concentration are present in differeing proprotions in all states and your intention to foster certain aspects in a balanced way is the nub of the practice.

with your stated concentration abilities focusing on vipassana should be relatively easy when you find a method that does not get in the way.  i like an open anapanasati noting practice.  for several years my sits were essentially a walk through of the satipatthana sutta leaving out much fo the details and trying to use the framing of the sutta to bring me to ever deeper and more subtle aspects of the path.

enjoy the wind in your sails